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Pacemakers, archive film, 2021


In December 2021, I was invited with others to search through the personal library of Professor James Dunkerley who was offering a generous donation of books to the Goldsmiths Anthropology department. Looking through his vast collection, I came across various books exploring notions of time. One in particular piqued my interest. The title, Empires of Time, Calendars, Clocks and Cultures by Anthony Avenci. Illustrated with images and diagrams, the book works through various cultures and ontologies towards time keeping.

Reading further, I was inspired by the living nature of time, observed in celestial movements and seasonal changes, and how humans have proposed methods of keeping time – carved into rock or knotted onto string, or interpreted from the rings of a coral organism. The communication of time in simple hand gestures of Mayan farmers are encountered as illustrations in the book. The translation of these embodied movements into flat drawings enclosed in the pages of the archival object inspired me to breathe some life back into them.

Pacemakers is an experiment in animating diagrams and images found within the book. Layered with my own archival footage, images and drawings. The drawings appear as textures, or later as horizontal and vertical lines. These drawings were all made with time in mind, from rubbings of London’s pavements worn by countless footsteps, or marking a drum beat heard during a Vietnamese funeral. The photographs were taken in Peng Chau, Hong Kong, where land has been concreted over though still exposed to processes of weathering – exposed to the alive and natural from above and below. Bringing these together layered with videos of the moon rising taken in Vietnam, and moonlit waters of Hong Kong, questions the temporalities contained within the content of the archives through directions of movement, pace and rhythm.

The film is held and carried by a track from queer artist Sarah Hennies who plays resonating beats on a handmade instrument, explores notions of time through natural growth and human intervention.
"Knees" takes its name from the strange stalagmite-like formations that grow up through the ground from the roots of cypress trees in swamps. I encountered this phenomenon in the Congaree National Park near Columbia, SC where my friend and collaborator Greg Stuart lives. The purpose of cypress knees is unknown. The music was made using two empty beer kegs and a vibraphone with no digital processing or manipulation, these musical elements are perhaps analogous to the trees and their knees (or perhaps not).”

(Sarah Hennies Bandcamp, https://sarahhennies.bandcamp.com/album/knees)


Bibliography

Diagrams, text, black and white images
Avenci, A., 1990. Empires of Time Calendars, Clocks, and Cultures. London: I.B Tauris & Co Ltd.
Diagrams listed in order of appearance:
Mayan time counting in hand gestures, figure 6.2, p.193
Illustrated sequential markings from Neolithic calendar, figure 2.5 (B), p.67
Neolithic carved bone calendar, figure 2.5 (D), p.68
Inca quipu counting device, figure 8.2, p.283
Babylonian list of New Moons, figure 2.8, p.79
Archaic month calendar, coral, figure 1.4, p.34
Phases of the Moon, figure 2.5 (C), p.68
Mexican Petroglyph calendar, figure 2.6, p.72
Annual Calendar of Celestial, Natural and Human Activities, table 2.1, p.42-43
The “world machine”, figure 4.3, p.142
The Venus cycle in the sky, figure 6.10, p.226
Indo-European counting and writing systems, figure 2.8, p.78

Sound
Hennies, S., 2017. Knees. New York.
https://sarahhennies.bandcamp.com/album/knees